Why Do We Get Hung Up on the Word ‘Theory’ of Darwin’s Theory?

Dr. David Go is a Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, and has noticed that our use and understanding of certain words are what create the biggest rifts in science and the humanities.

Why Do We Get Hung Up on the Word ‘Theory’ of Darwin’s Theory?

Video Transcript:

ENGLISH

I taught a class with an architecture professor ‑ I’m an engineering professor ‑ and I would use the word “model” to write mathematical equations to describe the physical system you’re doing. You’re modeling the physical world. An architect thinks of a model completely differently. You know, it’s a physical structure that represents a larger physical structure. And there is a lot of back and forth where we just weren’t connecting because we were using the same word in two completely different units.

It’s not that we don’t comprehend what each other are doing. It’s that we haven’t figured out how to use a common vocabulary to describe. The classic cases is Darwin’s theory of evolution. Right? The scientific perspective on what a theory is, is not the same way we use theory in, say, the humanities. And some people utilize the misunderstanding to intentionally create division to pursue whatever it is that they want to pursue. It usually has something to do with power because we crave power as humans.

My perspective is that there is opportunity for scientists and non-scientists to overcome the vocabulary barrier, to overcome the disconnect between the common words we use and figure out what the common meanings are. Are we willing to do it? I think historically we haven’t been willing to do it. We allow the disconnect to create barriers. But it’s the people who see the misunderstanding and try to create understanding that I think are really going to create the best world for all of us.


SPANISH

Di una clase con un profesor de arquitectura – yo soy profesor de ingeniería – y utilicé la palabra “modelo” al escribir ecuaciones matemáticas para describir el sistema físico que estás haciendo. Estás modelando el mundo físico. Un arquitecto piensa completamente diferente sobre un modelo. O sea, es una estructura física que representa una estructura física más grande. Y hubo muchas idas y vueltas en las que simplemente no conectábamos porque estábamos utilizando la misma palabra en dos unidades completamente diferentes.

No es que no comprendamos lo que cada uno está haciendo. Es que no hemos resuelto cómo usar un vocabulario común para describir. El caso típico es el de la teoría de la evolución de Darwin. ¿No es cierto? La perspectiva científica de lo que es una teoría no es la misma con la que usamos teoría en, por ejemplo, humanidades. Y algunas personas aprovechan el malentendido para crear una división intencional con el objetivo de perseguir lo que sea que quieran perseguir. Generalmente tiene algo que ver con el poder porque, como seres humanos, deseamos el poder.

Mi perspectiva es que existe una oportunidad para los científicos y no científicos de superar la barrera del vocabulario, de superar la desconexión entre las palabras comunes que usamos y de comprender cuáles son los significados comunes. ¿Estamos dispuestos a hacerlo? Creo que históricamente no estuvimos dispuestos. Permitimos que esa desconexión creara barreras. Pero la gente que ve el malentendido e intenta aclararlo es la que pienso que va a crear el mejor mundo para todos.

Dr. David Go is a Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, and has noticed that our use and understanding of certain words are what create the biggest rifts in science and the humanities. The scientific perspective on what a theory is, is not the same way we use theory in the humanities. Some people utilize the misunderstanding to intentionally create division, and we need to recognize it more often.

Featured Scholar:

Dr. David Go is the Rooney Family Collegiate Professor of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame. He is also the Chairman of the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Notre Dame.

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